SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Last year, Stanford made an in-season quarterback change, going to K.J. Costello late in the season to boost an offense that was relying too much on the running game and help the Cardinal surge a Pac-12 title game appearance.
This season, Notre Dame has made a similar move. Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly did not wait as long as Cardinal coach David Shaw to make the switch, and he also is still playing it coy about how committed he is to last week’s starter, Ian Book.
“We’ve prepared both quarterbacks and they are both ready to play,” Kelly said.
And Shaw says No. 7 Stanford will be ready for either Book or Brandon Wimbush on Saturday night, when the Cardinal (4-0) face No. 8 Notre Dame (4-0) in the first top-10 matchup between the schools in 33 meetings.
Costello took over as Stanford’s No. 1 quarterback last November and his best performance down the stretch was against Notre Dame, throwing four touchdown passes and no interceptions in the regular-season finale victory.
Last Saturday at Oregon, Costello, the 6-foot-5, 215-pound junior, was 19 for 26 for 327 yards and three touchdowns in a wild comeback victory in overtime for the Cardinal.
“He’s gritty; he keeps playing and makes plays and gets his team back in the game,” Kelly said.
Costello has completed 64 percent of his passes (73 of 114) for 1,056 yards and 10 touchdowns against three interceptions. “He has made a lot of growth since last year,” Shaw said. “I believe there is a really high ceiling he’d like to reach, and we’d really love him to reach.”
Kelly started Book, a junior, last week after senior Brandon Wimbush was No. 1 for the Irish in the first three games of the season. Book threw for 325 yards and accounted for five touchdowns against Wake Forest. Wimbush, who started 12 games last season, did not play.
“I still anticipate seeing both quarterbacks,” Shaw said. “(Book’s) accurate and has a quick release. He’s athletic and can escape to get you first downs.”
Kelly loved the way Book distributed the football last Saturday with 15 backs and receivers getting at least one touch. But Thursday, Kelly wasn’t ready to say Book would start over Wimbush.
LOVE CONNECTION I
Stanford’s Bryce Love, the 2017 Heisman Trophy runner-up after rushing for 2,118 yards, has started the season slowly with 254 yards in three games.
Linebackers Drue Tranquill (33 tackles) and Te’von Coney (32 tackles) expect to see a lot more of Love who has 287 yards on 46 career rushes against the Irish.
“He’s a dynamic playmaker for them, we all know that,” Tranquill said.
“He has a strong lower body and has great vision,” Coney added. “The key for us is to get to him behind the line of scrimmage.”
LOVE CONNECTION II
There’s Love on the Irish sideline, too, in junior cornerback Julian Love, one of the top players in the country at his position. Love’s next pass broken up will put him ahead of Clarence Ellis (1969-71) as the school’s all-time leader.
Stanford has big receivers in 6-foot-3 wideout J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and tight ends Kaden Smith (6-foot-5).
“They definitely have height on me and some of our DBs,” the 5-foot-11 Love said. “It will be a matter of being physical and using technique and leverage to make them play left-handed.”
BACK HOME AGAIN IN INDIANA
Stanford defensive end Jovan Swann will have a bunch of family and friends watching him. The 6-foot-2, 271-pound junior, who has 16 tackles, 4½ behind the line of scrimmage, played football at Center Grove High School in Greenwood, Indiana, south of Indianapolis.
Swann did not grow up cheering for the Fighting Irish, who didn’t recruit him.
“That’s OK,” he said. “People tell me that if you get a chance to play a team that didn’t recruit you, put it to them. I was born in Detroit so I’m a diehard Michigan fan. That’s another school that didn’t offer.”
100 AND COUNTING
Saturday’s game will be Shaw’s 100th as head coach of his alma mater where he played wide receiver for Dennis Green and Bill Walsh from 1991-94, finishing with 685 yards and five TDs. The Cardinal went 1-3 in games against the Irish during his career, including 1-1 at Notre Dame.
Since his elevation from offensive coordinator to take over from Jim Harbaugh prior to 2011, Shaw is 77-22 and is 5-2 against Notre Dame, including a 17-10 victory in 2016.
“It’s a difficult place to win and it’s gotten louder over the years,” Shaw said of Notre Dame Stadium, which is expected to be sold out for the 266th straight game dating back to 1973. “They have done a great job in creating a very good home-field advantage and the crowd is into it, in the red zone and on third downs.”
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